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Buying the Right Cut of Beef

Beef comes from bullocks and heifers which have never calved. The male produces the leaner meat but the heifer carries less bone. The best beef comes from young animals, but this must still be hung after slaughtering. With properly hung meat, lean meat is red with a brownish tinge, and slightly moist. Very red meat shows that the beef has not been hung for long enough. Dark red, blotchy, and dry looking meat indicates cuts from an older and tougher animal. These cuts are suitable for braising or slow cooking, provided they have a certain amount of fat that will improve the tenderness, heighten the flavour and stop the meat from becoming dry after cooking. The fat around and between the meat should be cream or pale yellow in colour, and of a firm texture. The bones should be pink, sometimes with a blue tinge and shiny. Good quality beef should include little or no fat on steaks, a strip of gristle running between the fat and the lean meat indicates an old animal. Cheap cuts of beef are as nutritious as expensive ones, the only difference being the time spent preparing and cooking them. Cuts of beef and the names they are known vary considerably in different parts of the country. For instance, leg and shin of beef are known as hough.
Apart from Scottish, English and Irish beef, we also import beef from Argentina, New Zealand and Australia. The beef is vacuumed packed, chilled or frozen. The fat on imported beef is almost white and the meat is pale pink.
Blade is sold as braising steak and often included with chuck stake. Many butchers dice blade of beef to mix with kidney for pies. Being lean, bade is excellent for slow cooked casserole and stews.
Brisket rolled and boned joints are suitable for slow pot roasting and braising. Boned brisket is sold salted ready for boiling, it is then served cold.
Chuck is the best type of stewing steak, it is best braised, stewed and pie and pudding filling, like steak and kidney. It is not advised to fry or grill chuck steak.
Fillet is lean and boneless, it lies below the sirloin and is one of the most expensive. It is usually sliced into individual 1½ in thick. Tiny flecks of fat indicate that it will grill well. It is also sold whole for dishes like boeuf en croute.
Flank is an inexpensive, fatty joint. It is excellent for pot roasting, braising or stewing.
Rib of beef is one of the larger roasting joints which can be cooked either on the bone or rolled. The wing part of the rib is a large joint cut from the loin, close to the sirloin and fillet. It is one of the most expensive joints of beef.
Rump is a large joint from the hind leg, also known as top rump. It can be slow roasted at a low temperature, but is best pot roasted or braised.
Shin comes from the fore-leg and is usually gristly, it is sold as mince, and is also good for stews, casseroles, puddings or pies. The shin in inexpensive, but often contains lots of waste.
Silverside, a popular boneless joint, which can be pot roasted, or salted before boiling, and served hot with vegetables.
Skirt is cut from the lower rump and gristly which can be easily cut away. Skirt is used for mince, stews and casseroles.
Sirloin is considered the best of the roast joints. It is expensive and be roasted whole, or boned and rolled. Steaks are cut from the upper part of the joint.
Topside is a very lean, boneless joint and is best roasted. It can also be pot roasted.
Steaks are individual cuts mainly from the loin, fillet or rump. They are all expensive, but very tender. There are a variety of steaks like porterhouse, rump, sirloin, t-bone and Chateaubriand.